Are Herbal Supplements Safe?

Are Herbal Supplements Helpful or Harmful?

 Herbal supplements are popular as “natural” remedies. Are they useful for health or are they a health risk? Today, about 1 in 6 Americans use herbs to treat everything from coughs, constipation, and poison ivy, and arthritis. They are widely available and affordable and don’t require a prescription. Advocates claim this makes people more in control of their own health care; opponents fear that self-dosing may lead to toxic interactions and prevent people from seeking traditional care and proven treatments offered by conventional practitioners.

Some herbs are derived from plants in the first place. For example, aspirin comes from willow bark and digitalis from foxglove flowers to treat certain heart problems.  The active ingredients may come from all the parts of the plant, so the amounts contained are affected by harvesting and processing and vary with the batch. This practice may further upset the balance of the ingredients and the doses are often affected. Herbs are made from unpurified plant material, and there is also a risk of contamination with pesticides, microbes, metals and other unnamed toxins.  

Another concern is that some herbs interact with prescription drugs and cause additional problems. For example, gingko biloba and garlic can interfere with blood clotting and should not be used with blood-thinners before surgery. St. John’s wort may interact with anesthetics and antidepressants.

 Herbs are medicines and like taking other medications has some advantages and risks. Whether they are helpful or harmful depends on the supplement, the dose, and the consumer. Education is essential in the pros and cons of any medication as well as herbal remedies. The best advice is “buyer beware”.  This advice applies to all dietary supplements due to a lack of much-needed regulations on safety and effectiveness.

The Concerning Rise of GMO Food Animals: Goats, pigs, fish??

“Most grocery stores and butcher shops don’t want to sell genetically modified fish and food animals.” We have seen the rising interest of consumers of “Impossible Burgers” and “Beyond Burgers” now available in supermarkets; however, their success is not widely advertised.

The development of genetically engineered food animals or their products soon to be available like goats, pigs, cattle, and salmon (some already approved by the FDA will likely increase because GMO’s represent greater profits for big meat producers… “

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Detox: TikTox?

Detox? A Lot of Pseudoscience

Sally Feltner MS, PhD Diet and Health, Food History July 20, 2020 5 Minutes

Before you dust off that juicer, you should take a long hard look at the latest fad – detoxing your body from alleged accumulated toxins from environmental chemicals that supposedly lead to illness. When searching Amazon, detox, natural, and hygiene is frequently mentioned in the titles of the latest diet books, not to mention the myriad of products from tablets, massages, tinctures and tea bags that promise to cleanse your body of these impurities and your hard earned money. You can go on two-day to seven-day detox diets which promise cleansing and weight loss. You may lose weight, but that is more than likely due to starvation rather than the diet itself. These toxins are never identified by the manufacturers of these products. When asked to provide some scientific evidence that support their claims, no one seems to be able to provide evidence that “detoxification” is not a bogus treatment.   Despite this, the detox industry has become a huge business with a little help from some celebrities like Ann Hathaway and Gwyneth Paltrow. If toxins build up in the body with no way to excrete them, we would die or need serious medical intervention. However, we have kidneys, a liver, a colon, skin and lungs that physiologically are designed to rid our bodies of any unnecessary substances we don’t need.

Detox is actually not a new concept.  Health reform began in earnest in the 19th century in America. During that time, there had to be a great deal of food anxiety; food often was adulterated with chemicals in order to make it palatable. As Upton Sinclair in 1909 writes of the meatpacking industry in his famous book, The Jungle: “And then there was “potted game” and ‘potted grouse’ and ‘potted ham’ made out of the waste ends of smoked beef… and also tripe, dyed with chemicals so that it would not show white… and potatoes, skins and all, and finally the hard, cartilaginous gullets of beef… All this was ground up and flavored with spices to make it taste like something.” Ronald Deutsch, The New Nuts Among the Berries: How Nutrition Nonsense Captured America, Bull Publishing, 1977.

Food preservation was crude and foodborne illnesses were rampant. People had little resources to turn to in dealing with even the common diseases of society. Whom did they have to rely on for medical advice on how to remain healthy in an age of so much misinformation and confusion? People were vulnerable to just about any ideas from anyone medical or nonmedical that would help them to maintain health and avoid disease.

In the 1848 edition of Buchan’s Domestic Medicine was listed the general causes of illness: “diseased parents, night air, sedentary habits, anger, wet feet and abrupt changes of temperature.” “The causes of fever included injury, bad air, violent emotion, irregular bowels and extremes of heat and cold.” I’m going with the “diseased parent theory.
Cholera, shortly to be epidemic in many British cities, was caused by rancid or putrid food, by ‘cold fruits’ such as cucumbers and melons, and by passionate fear or rage.” William Buchan, Domestic Medicine, 1848: A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases; Google eBook .

There are two major ideas that flourished and dominated  the 19th century that led to the premise that toxins must be removed from the body by detoxification – auto-intoxication and the natural hygiene theory..

AUTO-INTOXICATION

During the 19th century, people were told that constipation was at the root of most diseases and the term, autointoxication, became the mantra of the medical community. In 1852, a publication called The People’s Medical Lighthouse, a series of popular scientific essays on nature, uses and diseases of the lung, heart, liver, stomach, kidney, womb and blood had this to say about this common digestive problem: “daily evacuation of the bowels is of utmost importance to the maintenance of health”; without the daily movement, the entire system will become deranged and corrupted.” People’s Medicine Lighthouse, Lecture 71. Harmon Knox Root, A.M, M.D. 1852.

The term auto-intoxication was coined by Charles Bouchard, a French physician. Other physicians further defined the theory by describing the phenomenon as caused by the putrefaction or decay of proteins in the intestine generating offending toxins. This theory dominated a major part of the 19th century and has survived to this day

The obsession with the auto-intoxication theory led to the marketing and sales of a myriad of bowel cleansing products along with laxatives, enema and colonic irrigation equipment. These gimmicks are still available today. Although doctors prescribe colon cleansing as preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopy, most do not recommend colon cleansing for detoxification. Their reasoning is simple: Your digestive system and bowel naturally eliminate waste material and bacteria; your body does not need colon cleansing to do so.

In fact, colon cleansing can sometimes be harmful. Colon cleansing can cause side effects, such as cramping, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. More serious concerns with colon cleansing are that it can increase your risk of dehydration, lead to bowel perforations, increase the risk of infection, and cause changes in electrolytes. Civilisation and the colon: constipation as the “disease of diseases. James Whorton BMJ 2000; 321: 1586-9

According to Quackwatch In 2009, “Dr. Edzard Ernst tabulated the therapeutic claims he found on the Web sites of six “professional organizations of colonic irrigations.” The themes he found included detoxification, normalization of intestinal function, treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, and weight loss. He also found claims elated to asthma, menstrual irregularities, circulatory disorders, skin problems, and improvements in energy levels. Searching Medline and Embase, he was unable to find a single controlled clinical trial that substantiated any of these claims.Quackwatch, Gastrointestinal Quackery: Colonics, Laxatives, and More, Stephen Barrett, MD. August 4, 2010 www.quackwatch.com

My own investigations of the online “yellow pages” in searching for “Colon Cleansing” revealed that there were about twelve establishments advertising this service in my city of Asheville, North Carolina as of this writing.

NATURAL HYGIENE

Isaac Jennings, MD put forth the original ideas of natural hygiene in 1822 and became known as “The Father of Natural Hygiene.” He helped to developed a healing system called “Orthopathy” that claimed that Nature knows better than the most learned physicians of the time. That could be true – my opinion. Among earliest promoter of natural remedies was Samuel Thompson, a New Hampshire farmer who prepared “botanics”, as they were called, made from native herbs. In 1835, Dr. William Alcott, a graduate of Yale Medical school mixed part time farming with his medical practice. Other professors from Dartmouth and Amherst followed. A popular health cure came in the form of water cures. In 1849, the Water Cure Journal, Physiology, Hydropathy and the Laws of Life, edited by Dr. Russell Trall entered the health reform movement. By 1850, the Journal had 20,000 subscribers. Dr. Trall is quoted as saying: Typhoid and pneumonia are neither more nor less than a cleansing process – a struggle of the vital powers to relieve the system of its accumulated impurities”. http://www.whale.to/v/trall2.html.

A vulnerable public eagerly received their proclamations due to limited information and confusion on the causes of disease. Other proponents among many included Arnold Ehret, a German author of several books on diet, detoxification, fruitarianism, fasting, food combining, naturopathy, physical culture and vitalism. There was also Herbert M. Shelton who opened schools in Natural Hygiene and founded the American Society of Natural Hygienists Universal Healing, wwwuniversalhealingbelize.com/Brief- history- of –naturalhygiene.

In a previous post, the misguided principles of detoxification were supported and practiced by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg .  Detoxification still is alive and thriving in the form of a pseudo-medical concept..  The bottom line:  Detoxification is  primarily designed to “sell you something”.  If you want to “detox”, do not smoke, do exercise and eat a healthy balanced diet.

INTERMITTENT FASTING?

“The weight-loss idea is quite appealing: Limit your eating to a period of six to eight hours each day, during which you can have whatever you want.” However, is it effective for weight loss?

“Almost every type of diet out there works for some people,” he said. “But the take-home supported by this new research is that when subjected to a properly designed and conducted study — scientific investigation — it is not any more helpful than simply reducing daily calorie intake for weight loss and health factors.”

Nevertheless, intermittent fasting may act as a positive tool for some people to practice the act of mindful eating. (SJF).

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CHOOSING A PLANT-BASED DIET?

Michael Pollan started it – “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Many people are taking more of an interest in plant-based diets. People are switching for various reasons – weight control, sustainability, the environment in general, health reasons, media hype. Food companies load their products fortified with grams and grams of protein in order to “make up” for an alleged protein deficit – however, there are plenty of non-meat sources of protein found in plant foods. Most Americans get enough protein. “Protein is not the key for weight loss and animal protein is not the healthiest food we can eat. Carbs are not the enemy – they are a source of energy, and are staples in the diets of the longest-living people in the world.” Garth Davis, M.D. Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. 2015


High amounts of protein are not needed by most consumers unless there is a medical reason. The adult RDA or Daily Value is about 50 grams for most adults. That amount can be found in only 3-4 ounces of most meats – or a portion about the size of a deck of cards.

People have tried a number of diets – Paleo and Keto are of the low carb genre resulting in high protein and high fat diets. Since then, weight gain has taken over with an obesity rate higher than ever along with its companion- diabetes type 2.

Michael Pollan refers to the American diet as ‘the “American paradox” – the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become”.

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The American Plate: 1950 – 1959

Sally Feltner MS, PhD Food and Culture, Food History, General, The American Plate September 15, 2020

5 Minutes by foodworksblog

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Author: Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,PhD

An Attack on Gastronomy

The 1950’s brought a renewed hope for the country after two decades of Depression and War. However, food historians deplore the state of the cuisine during this period – it mainly consisted of processed foods which many blame for this anti-gastronomic desert. In addition, the rise of the fast food industry, i.e. hamburger chains that sprouted up along side the newly build national highway system did not offer any better fare. Freeing Mom from the kitchen seemed to be the dominant theme as appliances and prepared foods became the ‘norm”.

TV Dinners

After WWII, America’s economy boomed, women entered the workforce as never before and food got a little strange. Housewives spent less time in the kitchen, so food companies came to the rescue with a buffet of processed foods. Foods were purchased in a can, package or pouch. Soups were available as liquids or in dry form. Tang landed on supermarket shelves and frozen dinners laid on trays in front of TV sets. TV dinners were introduced in 1953 by Swanson and with a flick of a wrist you could turn back the foil to display turkey in gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes and peas ready in about 30 minutes – all with no dishes to wash.

tv_dinner01

Better Living Through Chemistry

“Better Living through Chemistry” was the slogan of the times along with “I like Ike” referring to the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 5-star general from WWII winning the U.S presidency from 1953 to 1961.
This change in processing came from the demand of the Army during WWII to provide needed ready-to-eat meals. The food industry responded by ramping up new technologies in canning and freeze-drying to feed the troops. The marketing of these foods presented a challenge, however. At first, many of them were less than palatable, so food companies hired home economists to develop fancy recipes and flooded magazines, newspapers and TV with ads to broadcast their virtues. Actually the first cake mix was available in 1931, but was met with disdain due to the use of dehydrated eggs, e.g. Women later would respond more favorably if they could crack their own eggs into the batter so they would feel like they were doing something positive in the kitchen.

June Cleaver

People rushed to buy appliances, houses, cars, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and backyard barbecue grills and new home freezers.  They also bought television sets in record numbers and watched shows that represented their new idealized lives like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Beaver’s mother, June Cleaver was depicted as a housewife freed from household chores and often was serene and perfectly dressed with pearls and high heels pushing a vacuum cleaner and putting meals on the family table, all before solving the family problems.

Fast Food Nation

The birth rate soared and created what is known as the Baby Boomer Generation. Fifty million babies were born from 1945 to 1960. Food marketing shifted to kids with Tony the Tiger and fish sticks leading the campaign. Fast food had its beginnings strengthened in 1955 when Ray Kroc bought a hamburger stand from the McDonald’s brothers in San Bernadino, California. Disneyland opened in 1955 and was so popular they ran out of food on the first day.

mcdonalds-burger1

The Seven Countries Study

In 1958, the American scientist, Ancel Keys started a study called the Seven Countries Study, which attempted to establish the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in different countries. The study results indicated that in the countries where fat consumption was the highest also had the most heart disease. This suggested the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease. He initially studied 22 countries, but reported on only seven: Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, United States, and Yugoslavia.

The problem was that he left out:

  • Countries where people eat a lot of fat but have little heart disease, such as Holland and Norway and France.
  • Countries where fat consumption is low but the rate of heart disease is high, such as Chile.

Basically, he only used data from the countries that supported his theory.
This flawed observational study gained massive media attention and had a major influence on the dietary guidelines of the next few decades, i.e. cut the fat out of our diets.

sevencountries

The First Artificial Sweetener

In the diet world, Saccharin was manufactured in granules and became a popular sugar substitute for dieters. It was first produced in 1878 by a chemist at Johns Hopkins University, but became popular after sugar shortages in WWI and WWII. In the United States, saccharin is often found in restaurants in pink packets as “Sweet’n Low”. It was banned later but it remains on the market today. The basis for the proposed ban was a study that documented an increase in cancer in rats being fed saccharin. The “Delaney clause” of the Food Additive Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act states that no substance can be deemed safe if it causes cancer in humans or animals. In suspending the proposed saccharin ban, Congress ordered that products containing the popular sweetener must carry a warning about its potential to cause cancer. The FDA formally lifted its proposal to ban the sweetener in 1991 based on new studies, and the requirement for a label warning was eliminated by the Saccharin Notice Repeal Act in 1996.

TIMELINE: 

1951 I Love Lucy debuts on CBS.

1952 The Lipton food company rolls out its dehydrated onion soup that will earn it fame as a base for onion soup mix: 2 envelopes of mix plus 1 cup of sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.

1953 Eggo Frozen Waffles are introduced.

1954 Employee Gerry Thomas from the C.A. Swanson Co,  has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha  plant): package the left-over turkey, along with some dressing, gravy, cornbread, peas and sweet potatoes into a partitioned metal tray, sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner. His name for the leftover meal: TV Dinner.

1954 The first Burger King  opens in Miami. A burger is 18 cents, as is a milkshake. The Whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for 37 cents.

1955 Milkshake-machine salesman, Roy Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owner of the original McDonalds in California) to franchise their concept.  They aren’t interested but  tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plains, ILL., and eventually buys out the McDonalds.

1956 Jif Peanut Butter is introduced.

1956 More than 80 percent of U.S. households have refrigerators. By contrast, only 8 percent of British households have refrigerators.

1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave-cooking article.

1957 Margarine sales take the lead over butter.

1958 Eighteen- year-old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he and his fellow Wichita State classmate, opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, KS.

Does Your Liver Need a Cleanse?

“The liver is a unique organ in that it can regenerate and repair itself. That means there is a lot you can do to prevent and possibly reverse liver disease. There is a troubling trend of an increase in what is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that is unrelated to alcohol intake.”

“No one – especially if they suspect or know they have liver disease should turn to detox supplements unless they are approved by their doctor. These product are not tested by the FDA, so the purity and amount of ingredients in them are unpredictable. Some may have compounds that may irritate the liver and do more damage.”  Why make the liver work harder? CLICK HERE.

Source:

How to Take Care of Your Liver, Consumer Reports On Health. September, 2021, Volume 33 Issue 9

Is Sugar Addictive?

“A new trend has people freezing honey and it’s leaving some experts concerned. Eating too much of the sweet stuff can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and other complications, dieticians and doctors told multiple news outlets less this week here’s what to know about the trend and whether it’s safe. In the past few weeks, the social media platform, Tick Tock has been flooded with videos that show people filling plastic bottles with honey and putting them in the freezer. Some users then squeeze out the golden, now solidified substance and sink their teeth right in. And people can’t get enough of the short clips. As of Wednesday, tons of millions of people had viewed content with the hashtags #frozen honey and #frozen honey challenge.

Another concern is that about 1/3 of people live with fructose intolerance which means their intestines have trouble absorbing fructose. In those cases, ingesting too much honey can cause diarrhea and discomfort.  As the honey thickens, it can also be brutal on your mouth, creating a risk for breaking teeth or causing decay.

 Another thing parents should consider is that children under one years of age should never eat honey due to the rare threat of Botulism.”

After reading this article from the local morning paper, my first inclination was that it resembles an image of drug addiction, only this time it’s pure sugar.

Watch for a future post on whether sugar (sucrose or fructose) is considered “addictive.” by addictive standards, i.e., what is addiction? Very interesting.

Source: Simone Jasper. The Charlotte Observer and Asheville Citizen Times, Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

IVERMECTIN: FACT OR FAD?

With so much information available on the Internet, it’s difficult to know what to do when we hear or read something about a medical “breakthrough” that may benefit us personally or perhaps help a friend or relative. How can you separate the sound information from the highly questionable?

Many people believe what they want to hear.

The products offer solutions to important problems that have few or no solutions in orthodox health care.

We all hope that these solutions will be the “one” that provides positive “cures” of the medical condition in question. In other words, we’re constantly searching for the “magic bullet”. Covid-19, fraught with controversy is no exception.

Ivermectin is a drug used to treat parasitic infections in animals and also is used to treat scabies and lice infestations in humans. Needless to say, it is questionable to use it as a treatment for Covid-19 infections.

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